A reported architect behind President-elect Donald Trump’s extreme immigration proposals, radio host and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has received significant media attention following the announcement that he was joining Trump’s transition team. However, media outlets are failing to note his ties to hate groups and nativist organizations and his attacks on immigrants and LGBTQ people.
Kris Kobach Has A Strong Influence Over Trump’s Policy Positions
McClatchy DC: Kobach Is A “Member Of Trump Transition Team” And “Advised Trump On Immigration Policy.” McClatchy DC reported on November 15 that Kobach is already part of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and was considered for a role in the administration as attorney general, a position that ultimately was offered to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). McClatchy also detailed Kobach’s role in adding “Trump’s promise to build a wall along the Southern border to the Republican Party’s national platform” and his history of advocating for draconian anti-immigrant legislation. The article also revealed “his legal work for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR,” and “ties to white nationalist groups.” [McClatchy DC, 11/15/16]
NBC News: “The Man Who Helped Write The Book On Creating A Federal Muslim Registry ... Now Has Donald Trump’s Ear As A Top Member Of His Transition Team.” NBC News reported on November 17 that Kobach has had “his fingerprints all over Trump’s policy white papers” since the Republican primary elections and has been “touting himself as the brain behind [Trump’s] border wall payment plan.” Kobach was also the creator of a post-9/11 Muslim registry that the Trump campaign is reportedly considering reinstating, despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general found the program to be “costly and unreliable.” As reported by NBC News, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) specifically highlighted Kobach when criticizing Trump’s extremist advisors, noting the Muslim registry was “a proposal that flies in the face of the constitution and is a threat to the civil liberties of all Americans.” [NBC News, 11/17/16]
Media Outlets Downplay Or Ignore Kobach’s Extremism
CNN’s Brianna Keilar: Kris Kobach “Helped Write Arizona’s Controversial 2010 Immigration Law.” CNN host Brianna Keilar highlighted Kobach’s role in crafting Arizona’s SB 1070, which invited unconstitutional racial profiling against immigrants in the state, but downplayed the law’s threat to minority communities by merely labeling it “controversial.” From the November 15 edition of CNN Newsroom:
BRIANNA KEILAR (HOST): I’m joined now by a man who is helping the president-elect craft his immigration policy as part of his transition team. Kris Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state. He also helped write Arizona’s controversial 2010 immigration law SB 1070 or the SAFE Act as its proponents call it. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 11/15/16]
Politico Reports On Kobach’s CNN Interview, Labeling His Extremist Past “Controversial.” In a November 15 article, Politico whitewashed Kobach’s history of extremism by merely describing him as “Donald Trump’s immigration adviser who is reportedly a favorite for attorney general” and noting that he is the Kansas secretary of state who “helped draft a controversial immigration law in Arizona.” [Politico, 11/15/16]
Reuters: “Immigration Hardliner” Kris Kobach Says Trump Team Is “Mulling Muslim Registry.” In an interview with Kobach about Trump’s possible reinstatement of a “registry for immigrants from Muslim countries,” Reuters described Kobach’s SB 1070 law as “tough,” and downplayed its effect on minorities in Arizona. The article mentioned Kobach’s role in drafting Kansas’ law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship but did not go into detail about the problems and subsequent lawsuits that stemmed from its enactment, instead commenting that “Kobach has worked with allies across the United States … to crack down on illegal immigration.” From the November 15 Reuters article:
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped write tough immigration laws in Arizona and elsewhere, said in an interview that Trump's policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.
Kobach has worked with allies across the United States on drafting laws and pursuing legal actions to crack down on illegal immigration.
In 2010, he helped draft an Arizona law that required state and local officials to check the immigration status of individuals stopped by police. Parts of the law, which was fiercely opposed by Hispanic and civil rights groups, were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011.
Kobach was also the architect of a 2013 Kansas law requiring voters to provide proof-of-citizenship documents, such as birth certificates or U.S. passports, when registering for the first time. A U.S. appeals court blocked that law after challenges from civil rights groups. [Reuters, 11/15/16]
Fox News Whitewashes Kobach’s Extremism. Fox hosts helped Kobach sanitize his image, commenting that he has “been intimately involved in attempting to address illegal immigration,” and setting the stage for him to paint a very different picture of his anti-immigrant past. From the November 15 edition of Fox & Friends:
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): You’ve been intimately involved in attempting to address illegal immigration. What’s your background on it, and what can Donald Trump do to address these sanctuary cities?
KRIS KOBACH: My background goes all the way back to the Bush administration. I was John Ashcroft’s chief immigration adviser at the Justice Department back when Justice had the INS. And I’ve been working with states like Arizona and Alabama and actually representing ICE officers in court who are suing the Obama administration. So I’ve been deeply involved in this issue. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/15/16]
Kris Kobach Works For The Legal Arm Of An Anti-Immigrant Hate Group And Has Ties To White Supremacists
SPLC: “Nativist Lawyer Kris Kobach” Is “Of Counsel At The Immigration Reform Law Institute, The Legal Arm Of FAIR.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) criticized Kobach for his work with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), which is the “legal arm of” the racist Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- a recognized hate group since 2007 -- and noted that FAIR has “taken money from a foundation described as ‘neo-Nazi’” among other transgressions. From the February 23, 2012, article:
Anti-immigrant law drafter extraordinaire Kris Kobach continues to play dumb about the racist organization bankrolling his efforts, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and its founder John Tanton. In a piece published by Salon yesterday, Kobach, who is also the Kansas secretary of state, was quoted claiming that he is “not familiar with [Tanton’s] writings or his views.” He also said: “I have not done any legal work for any organization that expresses or supports racial discrimination, nor will I ever do so in the future. ”
Kobach is “of counsel” at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of FAIR, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists as a hate group. The reasons are multiple: FAIR has taken money from a foundation described as “neo-Nazi”; the group has employed and put on its boards members of hate groups; and its president, Dan Stein, has said that many immigrants hate America. Stein has also attacked the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which ended years of racist immigration quotas, as retaliation “against Anglo-Saxon dominance.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/23/12]
SPLC Has Declared FAIR An “Anti-Immigrant Hate Group” With Ties To White Supremacists. The SPLC has “designated FAIR as a hate group,” listing the group’s members’ racist writings and views and “links to white supremacist hate groups.” The SPLC wrote that, “although FAIR maintains a veneer of legitimacy that has allowed its principals to testify in Congress and lobby the federal government, this veneer hides much ugliness” and singled out Kris Kobach for his work on various anti-immigrant ordinances across the country. [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 11/21/16]
Rachel Maddow Explains FAIR Founder’s White Supremacist Background In Report About Trump’s Reliance On The Group. After Trump released an ad citing the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), whose founder, John Tanton, was also the founder of FAIR, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported on the groups’ ties to white supremacists, eugenicists, and Holocaust deniers. [MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/19/16]
SPLC: Kobach “Spoke To A Group Of White Nationalists” Last Year. On November 2, 2015, the SPLC reported that Kobach “was a featured speaker at a ‘writers’ workshop’” organized by the Social Contract Press, a publishing house “that routinely puts out race-baiting articles penned by well known run by white nationalists.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 11/2/15]
Kobach’s Radio Show Is A Platform For Anti-Immigrant Smears
Kobach Hypes Anti-Immigrant Nativist Group Center For Immigration Studies For Its “Authoritative, Well-Researched Information” About “Illegal Immigration.” On the May 31, 2015, edition of KCMO Talk Radio’s The Kris Kobach Show, Kobach hosted Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant nativist group as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and encouraged his audience to use the discredited CIS as a source for information about “illegal immigration”:
KRIS KOBACH (HOST): One of the people who knows about the rule of law more than anyone else in the context of immigration is Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, which is available at cis.org. And let me tell you, when I am -- a lot of people think that I just have accumulated all of my information about illegal immigration just over time by doing stuff, and that’s true through a lot of the cases I’ve worked in and work at the Justice Department. But a lot of times I need to bone up on something and figure out exactly what the stats are and go to a source that will really have some authoritative, well-researched information, and Center for Immigration Studies is where I go. Cis.org. I mean, it is amazing. Just report, after report, after report. White paper, after white paper, on every aspect of immigration. Legal, illegal, crime, economics, you name it. And one of the stars at Center for Immigration Studies who writes these reports is Jessica Vaughan. And she’s with us on the Kris Kobach Show. [KCMO Talk Radio, The Kris Kobach Show, 5/31/15; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 1/31/09]
“Absolutely Bat-Crazy, Stupid” To “Expunge … The Term ‘Illegal Alien.’” On the May 22 edition of KCMO’s The Kris Kobach Show, Kobach compared the Library of Congress’ “absolutely bat-crazy, stupid” decision to “expunge” the term “illegal alien” and instead use “undocumented immigrant” to George Orwell’s depiction of the world in the fiction novel 1984, saying “if George Orwell were alive today he’d say, “Wow this is worse than I actually thought it could be in my absurdist novel 1984.’” Kobach also used this reference to claim that the Department of Justice “doesn’t like proof of citizenship” because it “refused to defend a federal agency when that federal agency made a decision … that indirectly supports Kansas and other states’ proof of citizenship laws to register to vote,” referring to a lawsuit against Kobach’s voter suppression law in Kansas. [KCMO Talk Radio, The Kris Kobach Show, 5/22/16]
Kobach Promoted Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group, Crusaded Against Laws Protecting LGBTQ Rights On His Radio Show
Kobach: Obama Administration “Defies All Logic” For Its “Threat” To Make Schools Include Transgender Bathrooms For Whoever Feels Like A Man Or Woman “That Day.” Kobach harshly criticized the Obama administration for citing federal law to ensure public schools provide appropriate facilities for transgender students, commenting that the administration “has no authority to do this.” Kobach also smeared the transgender community by saying that transgender people decide whether they are “a man or a woman, or a boy or a girl, that day.” From the May 15 edition of KCMO’s The Kris Kobach Show:
KRIS KOBACH (HOST): It just shows how this administration, it just defies all logic, it just defies all reason, and continues to go farther and farther off the rails to the left. And you’re probably guessing what I’m going to talk about. On Friday, two days ago, the Obama Justice Department announced -- and the Department of Education, but it seemed to be the Justice Department in the driver seat -- announced that all schools across the nation are to provide transgender students with access to suitable facilities, meaning facilities that match their gender identity. In other words, they’re directing every public school in America, K-12, and every public university that receives any federal funds -- and this is the threat that the Obama administration -- that they must now allow people to go in whatever bathroom they wish based on whether they feel like a man or a woman, or a boy or a girl, that day. It’s unbelievable, and the administration has no authority to do this. [KCMO Talk Radio, The Kris Kobach Show, 5/15/16]
Kobach Encouraged His Audience To Join A Protest Led By An Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group. After the company Target announced it would provide gender-neutral bathrooms following the passage of North Carolina’s discriminatory HB 2, which forced people to use facilities in accordance with the gender prescribed to them at birth despite their gender identities, Kobach encouraged his listeners to protest Target. He noted that the American Family Association, a recognized anti-LGBTQ hate group, had already called for a boycott and promoted their protest, saying, “This is an easy call for me.” From the April 24 edition of KCMO Talk Radio’s The Kris Kobach Show:
KRIS KOBACH (HOST): Before some liberal out there says, “Oh, wait a minute, Kris, you’re downplaying it. Transgender identity is something that is not just, varies from day-to-day. It’s something you’re born with and you feel like this.” OK, maybe that’s true, maybe that’s not. But there’s no way to tell whether someone is pretending or actually does feel that way today, but may feel completely different next month. There’s no way to tell. OK, you can go to the men’s room as long as you’ve been feeling like a man for at least two months. There’s no way to put a time on it. That would be arbitrary. And so consequently transgender policies like the one the Fourth Circuit [Court of Appeals] has endorsed and like the one Target has adopted, they don’t foresee to prove you’ve been feeling like a man for however long. You just, if you feel that way you go. And so no one can look at you now and say, “No, you go to the other restroom.”
So I for one will be boycotting Target. There’s already a group out there that has called for it. It’s the -- which one is it -- it’s the American Family Association. Has more than 162,000 citizens who have signed its pledge, which is available at #BoycottTarget. This is an easy call for me. I’ll go to Walmart if I need to go to a super giant store and get discount products instead of Target as long as Target has this policy. And, furthermore, I have small kids. Could you imagine? You send your daughter -- I send my daughter to the bathroom, I’m waiting outside, and then a person whose -- has whiskers. A clear male, six foot, three inches tall, but wearing whatever goes into the women’s room right after my daughters do? They’re going to feel uncomfortable. I’m not saying they’re going to be threatened, I’m saying they’re e going to feel uncomfortable. [KCMO Talk Radio, The Kris Kobach Show, 4/24/16; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 11/21/16]